You Can’t Leverage Passion
We parents sometimes have to use leverage with our kids. Finish your dinner and you can have dessert. Complete your homework and you can watch TV.
One afternoon, I didn’t think my daughter, Ella Grace Helton, had worked through enough schoolwork before it was time to leave for our weekly volunteering at The Children’s Hunger Project. So I told her we just wouldn’t go.
That triggered intense crying — something she just doesn't do. Sincere, distraught, deep tears flowed. And it rocked my soul. We had been going weekly for a month or so at that point, and she just had to keep going.
I realized in that moment that I should never again threaten Ella’s dedication to feeding hungry children. Or any cause. It’s not something to leverage against doing homework.
When Ella (now 7) was 4 years old, we founded Ella Bella Beads, a bead bracelet business. We chose TCHP to be the recipient of a portion of proceeds from every bracelet sold. At the time, I also wanted to support anti-human trafficking efforts, but that’s not something you want to explain to a 4-year-old.
A kid understands that no other kid should go hungry. That mentality is how TCHP has built its community army that feeds thousands of children each week. You can read more about this on page 28, in my feature article about the organization reaching a 10-year milestone.
You may have read my past editor’s notes about how Ella’s efforts were noticed by American Family Insurance, which had its ambassador Derek Jeter do a national commercial with Ella in 2019. We soon were overcome with orders from around the country — so many people touched by Ella’s story and dedication to help kids in our community.
American Family Insurance shocked us all when they donated $5,000 to TCHP on Ella’s behalf. I still tear up thinking about it.
Later, we were ready to bring over another check for $500 from bracelet sales proceeds — a higher percentage of sales than usual — but it was a pandemic and they needed the money more than we did. Something told me even that wasn’t enough, though. So my hand just started writing double that.
Upon delivering the check, we learned from Executive Director Cheryl Cominsky how to pack the food and she invited us to come back for a packing session. Ella immediately asked if we could come the next day.
We did, and I thought it would be a one-time thing. But she demanded we return weekly. So we did.
Seeing the process and the act of sharing her passion fulfill her, fulfilled me. I didn’t realize my child had such drive, or such wisdom to know how good deeds do real good in the world. I followed her lead.
Next on Ella’s passion list: Eradicating homelessness.
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